RELATED: NASCAR official: We believe we did our job today LOUDON, N.H. -- Race restarts have been a hot-button issue in NASCAR this season and ironically, one of the teams most vocal about restart officiating was penalized for an illegal start Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Team Penske driver -- and Chase contender -- Brad Keselowski was ruled to have jumped the restart on Lap 242 and penalized with a pass-through penalty that dropped him from second place at the time to 25th. NASCAR officials say that video shows Keselowski's Ford accelerating through the marked restart area ahead of then race leader Greg Biffle 's Ford and called the decision to penalize Keselowski "very clear cut in our mind.'' "We did get 100 percent confirmation from our official that was on the ground as well as by all the data that was available to us,'' said Richard Buck, NASCAR's managing director of the Sprint Cup Series. The 2012 Cup champ Keselowski said he felt like NASCAR was making an example of him saying he was "the first person to ever be penalized for jumping a restart when I don't pass anyone, so that's a new one." "But we moved on and we made the most of a good day with the Miller Lite Ford and got a solid finish that hopefully will make our Dover (race) a little bit easier, so that was good," said Keselowski , who rallied to a 12th place finish. Biffle, for his part after the race, seemed a little puzzled by the call as well. "To be perfectly honest with you, I didn't notice," Biffle said. "I saw Brad kind of going a little bit and I waited until about the middle of the zone maybe. I didn't go right at the two marker, but I maintained my speed and I didn't speed up or slow down and I took off when I felt like it was time for me to go. "I wasn't really paying that close attention to the 2 ( Keselowski ) or what he was doing. We were pretty even getting down into (Turn) 1. I don't knew what they called him for, but I'll have to take a look back I guess. "I feel bad for Brad . I wasn't playing any games. I wasn't doing anything. I just went in between those two marks like we're supposed to.'' Keselowski recovered well from the penalty and is ranked eighth of the 16 Chase drivers with next week's elimination round after Dover cutting the field to 12. Still his team owner Roger Penske wondered what might have been on Sunday as Keselowski ran up front most of the afternoon. "I didn't see it, but his car was ahead of the 16 (Biffle) at the second line and I guess that's how they called it,'' Penske said. "He ( Keselowski ) didn't pass him, so I thought he was all right. I've got to go back and look at it. The race is over; there's nothing we can do about it. "I don't think he tried to jump it all. The way it looked in the box and they're going to call it when the first car doesn't cross the second line ahead. We'll just have to deal with it. Brad did a great job. The car ran well. We were running second at the time, with the 4 ( Kevin Harvick ) running out of fuel it would have been interesting. We're still in decent shape going into the next phase.'' WATCH: Keselowski black-flagged after restart Buck spoke with reporters after the race to further explain NASCAR's position on the restarts. He said there has been a lot of communication about the standard and the punishment. He said officials even warned teams on the radio during the race when it looked like the start was in position to be compromised. "We have made the rules very clear to everybody in the last couple drivers meetings and made sure everyone was informed,'' Buck said. "In fact today during the race, we reminded them before the race and during each restart of the rules. "If we saw something creeping toward the end we informed the spotter and crew chief so they knew what we were seeing and that's what brought us to the decision. "We're very clear and the drivers agree. The language is: there is a double red mark on the wall and a single red mark on the wall. The leader is the control car and has the right to restart the race and he must restart the race in that zone. The 16 was the leader at that point. The 2 car restarted before the 16 did." While NASCAR felt confident in its decision, it took some criticism from others on social media during the race. Ricky Craven, a NASCAR analyst for ESPN and a former Cup driver called the ruling "a horrible decision" because Keselowski did not ultimately pass Biffle on the start. A precedent was set today black flagging the highest running Chase driver @ keselowski For gaining nothing ? 6:15p @SportsCenter — Ricky Craven (@RickyCravenESPN) September 27, 2015 Keselowski actually brought up the subject of restarts two weeks ago in the pre-Chase media availability. "I have said it before but I still view restarts as rock-paper-scissors and you have to counter the moves of the person next to you,'' Keselowski said prior to the Chicagoland Chase opener last week. "As has happened it starts with the leader and the zone not being allowed to dictate it. If the guy in second place is lagging back then the only defense to that is to go early, both of which are illegal by the definition. Neither of which have been consistently called as an infraction. If one guy lags back and beats you when you do everything legal, then you have to defend it. That is your job. "I felt like as the leader at Darlington, I probably had half a dozen or more attempts at controlling the restart and I kept the lead the majority but not 100 percent of the time. The few times where I lost the lead it was very obvious that the car next to me had lagged back significantly and there was no call made. That forces your hand the next time you have the lead to do something to react to it. In a sense it is kind of vigilante justice. That is just how you have to play it." This time, however, Keselowski overcame the penalty and is still in good shape for the postseason. "I'm really proud of my guys to come back and get a top-12 out of that without getting another yellow or catching any other breaks after the black flag,'' Keselowski said. "I'm really proud of my guys.''
RELATED: Hear what Kes had to say " Watch the restart Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, said Monday that he disagreed with criticism lobbied by Brad Keselowski , who became the first driver penalized by the sanctioning body's renewed emphasis on restart management Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . O'Donnell's remarks came in a Monday morning debrief with NASCAR.com the day after the second event in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. NASCAR issued Keselowski a pass-through penalty on Lap 242 of Sunday's Sylvania 300 after series officials ruled he had inched ahead of leader Greg Biffle on the final restart. Keselowski dropped from second place to 25th after the penalty but rallied to finish 12th. In a post-race interview with NBCSN, Keselowski voiced his displeasure, saying, "It's a pretty basic understanding. It's an entertainment sport, not a fair sport," comments that O'Donnell later dismissed. "I think that was a heat of the moment comment from Brad ," O'Donnell said. "I would look at what we've said in the past, is drivers are certainly going to disagree with the calls we make and that's OK. I disagree with Brad's comments. I think we make this as fair as possible each and every race. We've got to make calls, and no one's going to agree with every call we make. … We'll certainly have a conversation just about where we want to go and what are some of his thoughts. That's our job to listen as well, but we've got to make calls. "I'd expect drivers to have some passion. That's what they do. This is world-class racing and there's a lot on the line. Passion is something that really drives us overall." RELATED: No. 2 black-flagged after restart Keselowski's No. 2 Ford was ahead of Biffle's No. 16 Ford at the start/finish line when green-flag racing resumed on the final restart, but Keselowski was unable to complete the pass once the field shuffled out. Replays showed Keselowski gaining an advantage, but also showed Biffle maintaining a slower pace in the restart zone, causing three cars behind him in the outside lane to stack up and make slight contact. O'Donnell explained NASCAR's judgment, referring to the series' repeated reminders leading up to and during the race. "It really starts in the drivers' meeting where we talk about restart rules repeatedly, and it's the leader's prerogative to restart the race in the restart zone," O'Donnell said. "We repeat that to the drivers, we reiterate that over the radio during any caution or restart to tighten the field, and what we saw in this case was Greg Biffle had the option to start the race and really wasn't given the opportunity to do so within that restart zone and in our opinion, utilizing the additional technology we've put forth with cameras and personnel on the ground, we made the call and believed the 2 jumped the restart and went ahead of the 16 in this case." Restarts have come into greater focus in recent weeks, with Matt Kenseth 's unpenalized jump of Joey Logano in the regular-season finale at Richmond becoming a turning point in NASCAR's governance of the procedure. After that event, NASCAR dedicated a camera and a senior official to monitor the restart zone for the duration of the Chase playoffs. O'Donnell has said in the past that he would like to leave restarts in drivers' hands, but that the sanctioning body would step in if it needed to make a ruling. He said he planned to speak with Keselowski later Monday to discuss the procedure and solicit his feedback. "It's our job to utilize all the technology we have available to us and make the call," O'Donnell said. "Not everyone is going to agree with that. There's a ton on the line each and every race, and so ultimately we've got to make a call. It's difficult to do, but that's our job. We'll certainly seek feedback from the drivers. We'll talk to Brad obviously today, get his feedback, which I'm sure we'll disagree but that's part of it, and then we'll head into Dover."
Brad Keselowski is shown the black flag after a restart with Greg Biffle.
NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell responds to comments made by Brad Keselowski that NASCAR is “an entertainment sport, not a fair sport.”
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The next three-race set of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs comes with a round-capping layer of dread at one of the circuit's most feared tracks, Talladega Superspeedway . The possibility of adding laps under the green-white-checkered finish rules only ratchets up the pressure. Chase-eligible drivers talked Tuesday about the possibility of reducing the specter of overtime, saying that exploratory discussions have been held with NASCAR about potentially limiting the mayhem predicted for the Contender Round finale, the Camping World.com 500 (Oct. 25, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Drivers in the newly whittled field of 12 competing for the championship spoke favorably about decreasing the number of attempts at a two-lap shootout finish at restrictor-plate venue Talladega and its sister track, Daytona International Speedway . The "green-white-checkered" rule, instituted for NASCAR's premier series in 2004, currently has a cap of three attempts to finish the race under the green flag. Because of the Talladega facility's tendency toward large multicar wrecks, especially in the late stages of its races, decreasing the number of shootout-style finishes has won over some fans among the series' competitors. "I don't think it's a bad thing," 2012 series champ Brad Keselowski said. "We go there and say we're going to run 500 miles. You run 500 miles and it ends under yellow, it kind of feels a little uncomfortable. Give another crack at it and see if you can't finish it off for the fans, and if it doesn't come together, well, we tried. I would feel pretty good about that if I was a fan. And as a team owner, I would feel pretty good about that, too. "I feel like one crack at it kind of feels like, if you've ever been to a concert and the guy gets up there and does an encore, it kind of feels like that. It's like a showing of appreciation and respect toward our fans. But I think one gesture toward it is good." A NASCAR spokesperson said Tuesday that nothing has been decided in terms of changing Talladega's rules. Denny Hamlin , winner of the Chase opener at Chicagoland, said that "another option for sure that's on the table" would alter the restart format altogether. "I actually think the biggest change at Talladega for the finishes would be a single-file restart," Hamlin said. "I think double-file restarts really play into whoever's leading's advantage. Now if you put us all single-file, it forces the people in second, third, fourth, fifth to make a move to try to get the lead. Right now, we're where the leader has such an advantage that he's able to block both lanes, that I think single-file restarts at the end, there's more exciting finishes there than what we've seen in the past. It probably would be safer." Two of the last three Chase events at Talladega have gone into overtime, with one of those green-white-checkered attempts producing one of most frantic crashes in recent NASCAR history -- a race-ending 25-car melee in October 2012. Though there were no major injuries, the toll came in the form of a majority of the field suffering some form of damage. In addition to potentially reducing some of the danger associated with one of NASCAR's fastest tracks, drivers foresee positives in also dialing back any financial destruction. "Just from the standpoint of owners throwing away money for one extra green-white-checker, yeah," Martin Truex Jr . said. "All you do is destroy race cars and when it gets to that point, guys just lost their minds and hold it wide open no matter what the situation. I think it's a good thing. We tear up so much stuff there, it'd be nice for at least half the field to bring home a race car."
Standing on stage holding his arms high above his head giving double peace signs, 10-year old Elijah Aschbrenner looked like a rock star – bright red hair, high wattage smile and unmistakable attitude. A year after being diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer, Epithelioid Sarcoma, Elijah struck the pose after joining NASCAR stars such as Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Danica Patrick walking the runway as part of the Martin Truex Jr . Foundation's "Catwalk for a Cause" pediatric cancer fundraiser this past May. Predictably, Earnhardt and Patrick got rousing cheers, but Elijah clearly stole the show -- afterwards be-bopping around the Mooresville, N.C., venue shaking hands with donors, grabbing snacks with his little brother Sam, 9, and posing for photos with the race car drivers. It was difficult to tell who was the celebrity and who was the cause célèbre. That was only five months ago. Unfortunately, a recent CT-scan revealed that despite the chemotherapy and the radiation and the surgeries -- despite great courage and faith -- Elijah's cancer has spread. And after a brief and hopeful time participating in a clinical trial in Atlanta last month, doctors have decided there is no further treatment to prescribe. A hospice nurse visits Elijah every Tuesday at his home outside Charlotte making sure he is comfortable. A hospice social worker also stops by regularly to counsel Sam and Elijah's friends, whom his mom, Becky Hughes, says "are having a real tough time with this." Though Elijah would much rather be riding a Ripstik outside with his brother and friends, he mostly spends his days in a wheelchair building elaborate Lego creations or watching television -- "Wheel of Fortune" is one of his favorites. "My mom and I are really good at it," he says. He loves the occasional trips to Target or Toys "R" Us, and the steady stream of visitors who bring prayers and love. The cancer has taken a real toll on Elijah's young body. His voice is softer and strained, his stamina greatly diminished, but cancer has not sapped his incredible spirit or lessened his intense resolve. "There are so many days I could just cry and let myself get buried in that, but I can't," his mom explained. "Elijah is strong and Sam is strong, always there to make us laugh and smile. "I have prayed to God to just give me this tumor. I would do that in a heartbeat. The worst pain in the world is seeing your child going through something like this, and you can't fix it, you can't do anything. "I could be an emotional wreck, but Elijah only allows me three minutes of crying a day. Some days I don't need it, but if I start to, he'll say, "Three minutes, Mom." Hughes has worked in the racing industry for years both as a driver public relations representative and now with sponsor Great Clips. She has been buoyed by the outpouring of support from the NASCAR community but not surprised. This weekend Elijah and his family will be guests of Ann and Ken Schrader at the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . After some souvenir shopping -- his favorite part of the day -- Elijah is looking forward to stopping in the garage area and seeing his "friends" from the Catwalk event. So many of them have provided help to Elijah and his family. Drivers have lent their private airplanes to transport Elijah to various doctors around the Southeast. They have donated money to cover the escalating medical bills and sent messages of support using the hashtag #prayersforelijah on social media. More significantly, they have given their time and attention. Truex and his girlfiend, Sherry Pollex, herself undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer, are essentially on speed dial with the family and have been constant support for Elijah. Pollex organizes the Catwalk event and had been raising money ($300,000 this year) for childhood cancer long before she was affected personally by the disease. Team Penske put Elijah's name over the door of both of its Sprint Cup Series Chase contending cars last week. And 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski devoted one of the entries on his popular blogs to remind people about "perspective" in life. He used Elijah as a shining example. Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing are among the organizations to publicly offer good wishes -- the entire team from shop foremen to drivers posing with a "Prayers for Elijah" sign. And while it is all a bit overwhelming and "very cool," Elijah joked this week that it does cause a minor problem when it comes to picking a driver to cheer for. "That's the hard part," Elijah said. "They are all so good to me. "The fact they know me is outstanding, I don't know how a kid like me would get that lucky to meet them. Just knowing them means a lot to me." His mother begins to cry when trying to explain the impact of those relationships. "He really looks up to Martin (Truex) and Dale Junior and Kasey (Kahne) and Jeff Gordon and feels like they are all his buddies because they have done events with him," Hughes said. "After the Catwalk, he'll talk about how Dale Junior is his buddy. During a race, he'll ask me to call Dale Jr. and get him to do this or that. I'll laugh. It shows how great these guys have been to Elijah. "Even if they were just with him for half an hour it made such an impact on him and made him feel comfortable and like a friend.That means everything to me. To see how happy he gets thinking he has all these buddies in all these different avenues of sports." Taking the cue from NASCAR's best, other sports have rallied about Elijah, too. WWE wrestling star Titus O'Neil changed a flight to detour to Charlotte and pay a visit to Elijah. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton surprised Elijah at a block party in his honor -- a Halloween theme because that's Elijah's favorite holiday. News outlets from People Magazine to "The Today Show" shared the story. "I'm in disbelief. Every day we'll hear of another athlete doing something for him, last night someone sent us a picture of Kirk Cameron holding up a sign saying 'Prayers for Elijah,' " Hughes said. "It's just amazing to me, the outreach and the people that have been impacted throughout all this, from NASCAR, to WWE to the Panthers. Everyone's just put their arms around us and are supporting us. "He is definitely a loved little boy, and I am so blessed that God chose me to be his mom. He is the bravest little boy I know and I just pray for many, many more years to watch him grow up." It's not just famous people who have recognized and rallied for Elijah. Classmates from school visit him. The community organized a golf tournament fundraiser, and even local restaurants designated certain nights to donate funds. In some ways, "Prayers for Elijah" has grown from a sentimental hashtag or well wish into a movement. It is a plea for more funding and research into childhood cancers, which currently receive a very small portion of the overall funds. It is an inspiration reminding us if a 10-year-old boy can be this strong and positive despite all he's going through, then we should have great courage and a better attitude, too. It is a lesson in living in the present each day. As a breast cancer patient myself, I feel a special connection to Elijah. I was diagnosed a couple months after him and our chemotherapy treatments and surgeries often coincided. In fact, I had radiation treatment the morning I flew from Florida to Charlotte to attend May's Catwalk event. And I had to leave early the next morning to be back in the cancer center for my next round. That evening I asked Elijah what advice he had for other cancer patients. "Keep fighting," he said. "And breathe." His mom considers that evening a gift -- a time of pure happiness and excitement. How proud to know her son was an inspiration to every soul in the room. And still is. "He was amazing, he just shined that night," Hughes recalled. "It was like, 'Here I am and I'm not going to let cancer get the best of me.' And he's had that attitude from Day 1. "There have been many days when my faith is down and I’m scared and worried and he'll look at me and say, 'Mama, we're going to get through this.' So never once has his faith been in question. A few months ago he coined the phrase, 'Faith and believing are your cure.' And he really means it. "He is amazing and he gives me strength every day." He does the same for all of us.
After the third race of the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway , PitTalks.com ranks the 16 Chase teams' pit crews. For more pit crew news provided by PitTalks.com come back throughout the Chase . No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota pit crew for Carl Edwards Rank: 1 Wins: 2 -- Charlotte and Darlington Notes: This crew had an exceptional race in the pits. We usually wouldn't send a seventh-place team last week to first this week, but these guys laid down some very fast stops. They had an issue late in the race that brought the No. 19 down pit road, but we're hearing it was a car issue, not a crew misstep. No. 22 Team Penske Ford pit crew for Joey Logano Rank: 2 Wins: 3 -- Daytona, Watkins Glen, Bristol Notes: After a struggle last week on a few stops, this crew was on fire at Dover. It gained spots on five of the six pit sequences and helped keep the No. 22 up front all day. No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet pit crew for Kevin Harvick Rank: 3 Wins: 2 -- Las Vegas and Phoenix Notes: This team did everything it needed to do to advance to the Contender Round of the Chase. The pressure this crew was under was huge, and team members were in a situation where mistakes weren't tolerated. They had fast stops all day and have earned the third spot. No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet pit crew for Kurt Busch Rank: 4 Wins: 2 -- Richmond and Michigan Notes: This has been a top team all year and it continued to put up good times at Dover. The stops weren't as fast as the top two teams in Dover, but they were still very good. Late in the race the car entered pit road with problems on the left front, but that wasn't on the crew. No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota pit crew for Denny Hamlin Rank: 5 Wins: 2 -- Martinsville, (Sprint All-Star Race), Chicago Notes: The first stop of the day was blistering for this crew: sub 11 seconds. But after two speeding penalties it seemed the wind was taken out of the team's sails. We still wouldn't bet against them when the race is on the line ... it just wasn't this weekend. No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota pit crew for Matt Kenseth Rank: 6 Wins: 5 -- Bristol, Pocono, Michigan, Richmond, New Hampshire Notes: Dover wasn't a great race for the No. 20 nor was it a bad one. The crew made adjustments on the back of the car during the second stop and lost a few spots, but after that it was solid for most of the day. This team wasn't as dominant as last week but was still fast. No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota pit crew for Kyle Busch Rank: 7 Wins: 4 -- Sonoma , Kentucky, New Hampshire, Indianapolis Notes: Landing in the seventh spot this week is the good ol' No. 18 car. What a drama-filled two weeks for these guys! They seem to be handling it well. Their stops looked fast, and Josh Leslie has stepped in nicely for Nick Odell. We see this team only getting faster during the next round. No. 2 Team Penske Ford pit crew for Brad Keselowski Rank: 8 Wins: 1 -- Fontana Notes: This crew didn't do enough to gain on the top seven, but was good enough to hold onto eighth. Even with a change in the rear changers three weeks ago, this team keeps getting better. In order to help the No. 2 car advance to the next round, they must continue to improve. No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet pit crew for Ryan Newman Rank: 9 Wins: 0 Notes: Newman is in the Contender Round of the Chase, and he had no problems on pit road that would have kept him out. Sometimes that is what is asked of the pit crew: don't make mistakes. We can't fairly say how fast their stops were. So with that, they stay hunkered down at No. 9. No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet pit crew for Jeff Gordon Rank: 10 Wins: 0 Notes: Nick Odell joined the No. 24 this week only one week after being released from JGR. The crew seemed to be OK, but we didn't see much that would push us to move it up from the past two weeks. No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet pit crew for Martin Truex Jr . Rank: 11 Wins: 1 - Pocono Notes: The No. 78 has seen better days but did what it took to advance. On the fourth sequence, it lost a spot and lost two more on pit stop No. 6. They're a scary crew because they can put up very low times, but the inconsistency is what keeps them near the bottom of the power rankings. No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet pit crew for Dale Earnhardt Jr . Rank: 12 Wins: 2 -- Talladega and Daytona Notes: This crew can't seem to catch a break. Toward the end of last week a change was announced and front changer Scott Brzozowski was taken off the No. 24 and put on the No. 88. They had a loose wheel on Stop 2 and had another potential wheel coming loose before the last caution. For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com
RELATED: See all 43 cars for Darlington " Full starting lineup DARLINGTON, S.C. – With two races left before the start of the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Brad Keselowski got the momentum builder he needed with Saturday's pole-winning effort at Darlington Raceway . "Boy, this feels good," said Keselowski , who toured the treacherous 1.366-mile Lady in Black in 27.492 seconds (178.874 mph) to edge Kurt Busch for the top starting spot in Sunday's Bojangles’ Southern 500 (7 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Coors Light Pole Award was Keselowski's first of the season, his first at Darlington and the ninth of his career. The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has but one top five to his credit in six previous starts at the track "Too Tough to Tame," but NASCAR’s switch to a low-downforce configuration for this race seemed to suit the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford. "For my team, we haven't had, to date I would say, as strong of a year as what we had last year, and I think that kind of wears on everybody a little bit, including myself," Keselowski said. "But I feel like we have positive momentum, and you always want to see results that showcase that, and this is one of those results that I feel like we can carry for the next 12 weeks. "I'm just really pleased with today's qualifying effort and the momentum we're carrying." With tire fall-off a clear reality at Darlington, Busch set the fast speed of the time trials in the first round, running 179.501 mph to edge Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (179.389 mph) by .017 seconds. Through each subsequent round, the top speeds declined as tires accumulated wear, with Keselowski leading both the second and final sessions, the latter of which determines the pole winner. Kevin Harvick , last year’s winner from the pole, qualified third at 177.415 mph, followed by Joey Logano (177.319 mph) and Jeff Gordon (177.192 mph). Harvick, though, didn't seem particular worried. "I feel a lot better about it in race trim than I did in qualifying trim," said the reigning Sprint Cup champion. "We try to concentrate on that the most, because there is so much falloff. The cars are going to slide around so much that I really feel like the cars need to be as manageable as you can make them throughout the night. "It's really not about the first two or three laps. You've got to be able to stay in there and be able to maneuver your car and be comfortable and keep it off the wall for at least 400 miles so that you can be around at the end. So, we'll try to take care of our car and make sure we do everything right and get our car adjusted so that we're ready for the last 100 miles of the race." There was plenty of suspense throughout the three rounds of knockout qualifying. Denny Hamlin , pole winner for Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY Series race at the Lady in Black, had to bump his way into the top 24 late in the opening round. Three-time Darlington winner Jimmie Johnson was the last driver to punch a ticket to the second round, bumping Matt DiBenedetto by .009 seconds for the 24th spot. But Johnson's run ended with a 19th-place run in the second session. Trying to squeeze enough speed out of her No. 10 Chevrolet, Danica Patrick tagged the outside wall during her final run in the first round, forcing the team to roll out a backup car. Accordingly, Patrick will start from the rear of the field on Sunday. RELATED: See Danica hit the wall in qualifying Fast in Friday's practice, Greg Biffle also sustained damage to his No. 16 Ford after contact with the wall in the second round. Biffle was credited with a 24th-place qualifying effort, and his team opted to try to repair the car, rather than resorting to a backup. Note: Josh Wise , Timmy Hill and Travis Kvapil failed to make the 43-car field.
LEARN MORE: About Bing PLAY NOW: Play The Chase Grid Battle Game Powered by Bing The intensity in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is building as the competition moves to the Contender Round starting Saturday night in Charlotte and continuing the next two weeks at Kansas and Talladega. With the always unpredictable Talladega sitting at the end of this stretch of races, it's extra difficult to choose which eight of the remaining 12 drivers will advance to the Eliminator Round and get closer to a championship. But never fear, Bing is here to give you confidence in the picks you're about to make in The Chase Grid Battle Game Powered by Bing . With Bing Predicts , a methodology that has a history of producing accurate forecasts, you will be able to sort through these difficult times and come up with the winning choices. Bing Predicts accurately predicted the 16 drivers who would make the Chase this season, and it correctly picked 11 of the 12 drivers who advanced to the Contender Round. Check out the eight drivers Bing predicts will make it out of the Contender Round and into the Eliminator Round, then read at the bottom about an exciting opportunity to win a trip to Las Vegas for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Champion's Week. Bing Predicts : The eight drivers who will advance to the Eliminator Round Kevin Harvick , 96% chance Joey Logano , 86% Kyle Busch , 78% Denny Hamlin , 78% Brad Keselowski , 77% Matt Kenseth , 74% Carl Edwards , 64% Dale Earnhardt Jr ., 64% Kurt Busch , Jeff Gordon , Martin Truex Jr , and Ryan Newman are projected not to advance to the 'Final 8.' Note: Bing's models predicted that Earnhardt Jr. is actually more likely to be eliminated than Kurt Busch , but Junior's stellar record on restrictor-plate tracks, particularly at Talladega where he has six career Sprint Cup victories, makes him more likely to win the last race in this round at Talladega and advance -- similar to what Harvick did at Dover to get into the Contender Round. In addition to helping you win the NASCAR Chase Grid Battle game, Bing also wants to send you on a trip of a lifetime to celebrate the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup champion. Now y ou can enter a sweepstakes through Bing Rewards for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week.
RELATED: Full practice results Piloting his No. 2 Team Penske Ford at 175.880 mph, Brad Keselowski slid into the top position on the leaderboard with less than 10 minutes remaining Friday's final practice session at Darlington Raceway . Opening practice leader Greg Biffle found speed in the final minutes of Friday's final practice, propelling his No. 16 Ford around the South Carolina speedway at 175.729 mph for the second position. Like many of the other drivers in the field, third-fastest Kurt Busch -- who was second on the leaderboard in the opening session -- used the final minutes of the 115-minute practice to make a mock qualifying run in his No. 41 Chevrolet (175.723 mph). A late run also benefited Paul Menard , who inherited the fourth position on the leaderboard with the help of a fast lap of 175.484 mph from his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing car. His teammate Austin Dillon rounded out the top five, getting a top speed of 175.453 mph out of his No. 3 ride. Denny Hamlin remained atop the leaderboard for the majority of the final session. However, when drivers switched to qualifying trim in the final laps, he ended up 14th by the time the red flag waved to the signal the end of practice. "The Track Too Tough to Tame" lived up to its name in the final minutes for reigning race winner Kevin Harvick , who smacked the wall off Turn 2 late in the session in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Harvick ranked 21st on the leaderboard. After making contact with the wall midway through the second practice session, Kyle Busch and the No. 18 team deferred to a back-up car. The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota came up 35th on the leaderboard after the 115-minute session. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is set for Saturday at 1:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN. RELATED: Full practice results Greg Biffle topped the opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Darlington Raceway for Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Biffle paced the 115-minute practice with a fast lap of 176.201 mph at the 1.366-mile track in South Carolina. The Roush Fenway Racing driver has two wins in 14 starts at the "Lady in Black" and is currently on the outside of the Chase Grid with two races left in the regular season. Stewart-Haas Racing dominated the leaderboard behind Biffle with Kurt Busch (175.842 mph), Tony Stewart (175.710 mph) and Kevin Harvick (175.654 mph) coming in second through fourth in the session. Harvick is the defending race winner at Darlington. Joe Gibbs Racing 's Carl Edwards (175.647 mph) rounded out the top five. Friday's practice sessions provided the drivers with significant time with the low downforce package. This is the second race of the season to use that particular rules package as it was also used at Kentucky in July. Austin Dillon "earned" a Darlington stripe early in opening practice when he hit the wall off of Turn 2 and had significant damage to the right side of his No. 3 Chevrolet. The team worked to fix the damage on his car instead of bringing out the backup and got him back out on track toward the end of the session. Brett Moffitt also got a Darlington stripe early in the practice session. Chase Elliott , who will be attempting to make his fifth Sprint Cup start of the season, brushed the wall about a half hour into practice. Trevor Bayne also got into the wall during the practice session. RELATED: See Darlington's greatest hits